Sunni Heikes-Knapton, Class of 2019, Ennis
Interviewed by Rachel Buswell, Class of 2020, Missoula
Sunni Heikes-Knapton has made her home in Ennis, Montana with her husband of 19 years, her 17-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son, rescue dog Alder, six chickens, and a fish named Aldo Leopold. Although Sunni spent many years as the Watershed Coordinator for the Madison Conservation district, she decided to take her career in a new direction during her time in Leadership Montana and joined the National Association of Conservation Districts as the Northern Plains Region Representative. Sunni is very passionate about conservation and the ties it gives her to the land.
Sunni is a graduate of the “Fine 1-9” Leadership Montana class of 2019. She notes that one of her favorite aspects of her Leadership Montana class is that the class enabled her to get to know other people on such a personal level. These deep and resilient relationships allow people to have “heavy” conversations that have positive outcomes. This is important to her because the complex issues we face in Montana can’t be solved if people are unable to work together.
Leadership Montana has a deep impact on everyone who goes through the program and for Sunni, the class allowed her to have a better understanding of her role in her personal relationships and the value that relationships have on both a personal and a professional level. The program opened her eyes to areas where she could focus care on her relationships and “gave her the grace” to ask what is most important for nurturing those relationships. Sunni sees the Leadership Montana Alumni network as a great resource to address divisive issues in a time when “it’s too common to forget be respectful”.
Sunni’s favorite thing about Montana is that people from so many walks of life have found the Montana landscape to be a part of the fabric of their being. People in Montana “care about the land because they want to, not because of government regulations” and that makes our state very special.